¡Ay Caramba!

Goodbye Mexico!

Sun Mar 1, 2015 21:36 GMT

Berlin street

Sun Mar 1, 2015 12:47 GMT

More religious frenzy

Sat Feb 28, 2015 14:10 GMT

Pasteleria Ideal

Sat Feb 28, 2015 13:47 GMT

The biggest cake costs around 1000€, which is not that much if you consider it weights over 100kg…

Safari en Tepito

Sat Feb 28, 2015 00:04 GMT

Safari en Tepito is a project between some inhabitants of the Tepito district in Mexico, and eight actors. Eight people (each one living alone) from Tepito accepted to receive one actor, who then lived with them for two weeks. Each pair spent most or all of the day together, the aim being to get to know the other as much as possible. Safari en Tepito is the result of those experiences, presented to us by the people and the actors. I attempt here to summarize my “safari”, although I only scratch the surface of the range of emotions experienced during those four hours. This (long) post is merely a factual summary to give an idea of the structure of the project, expressing the actual feelings that occurred is far out of my reach. Even staying factual, I’m cutting many stories here to keep this story readable in a reasonable time.

To give a bit of context about the district of Tepito: when I arrived in Mexico, I asked Liliana and Gerardo if there were any zones I should avoid. They both agreed that Tepito was probably not a good place to go, apart from that the city is very safe. Located North of the center, Tepito is a district with a fairly bad reputation when it comes to violence and drugs. Safari in Tepito is a project attempting to show us another face of this district.

P, our guide, meets us at the Tepito metro station, where we also get to know the rest of the group (in my case, two couples and a women with a cameraman, although they’ll leave us later in the tour). We first revise our shoes, there’ll be lots of walking. The women with the cameraman is wearing insanely high heels, although it turns out she’ll do quite well walking the uneven streets with those.

P starts the tour by taking us to to J’s house. In J’s house, it’s always Christmas: the house is literally filled with decorations, and Christmas music is playing in the background. J’s is fairly proud to show us his house, although he’s quite shy at the same time. He is clearly moved to have people visiting his house, and it’s somehow hard for him to control his emotions. Soon, tears start to build at the corners of his eyes. He fumbles in a pile of mess on his table, finds a pair of old school Ray Ban sunglasses, puts them on to hide his tears. He’s now doubly embarrassed: by the people in his living room staring at him, and by the fact that he’s crying in front of them. He takes out his glasses, fumbles again in the pile of mess, finds a second pair, tries it, still not satisfied, more fumbling, he tries a third one, still not good, back to the Ray Bans. He wants to show us something, takes us to the back door of his house, we´re now in the patio. He explains us that his house has two doors, he uses either of them. P is trying to ask him about his house, without much luck. We now have to run, the time for the visit is running out, but J wants to give us something, it’s important. He goes back to his houses, and comes back with candy sticks for all of us. The distribution is somehow complicated, each candy stick has a small message, and every person has to get the right one. Eventually, J is satisfied, P insists that we have to leave, promise that we’ll be back so J lets us go (we won’t), and off we are. P later explains us how J ended up in an asylum due to alcohol problems, and how Christmas somehow ended up meaning the salvation for him. Today, the theme of Christmas is his way to be close to God and to lead a happy life.

We walk a bit more in the district, pass by the altar of the Santa Muerte (the Holy Death) where people bring flowers once a week, as well as in front of a couple of other altars. As in most districts, houses are fairly colored, and streets are alive with people selling food or random objects, kids running or biking around, and groups of young people hanging out on motor cycles.

We learn that we’ll now meet I, the girl that hosted P for two weeks. We take our shoes off before entering I’s house, and as we enter, she turns on the music and pulls us in an improvised aerobic course. After the music stops, I starts to explain the nature of Tepito: a district with a bad reputation, for its violence. I explains how the north of Tepito is actually split in two by the “eje”, a large street. North of the eje are lots of shoe workshops, and people there feel like they’re somehow out of Tepito, and in a better place. South of the eje is the real Tepito, quiet during the day and active at night. I tells us about the discrimination stemming from living in Tepito, and the various cliches about the district. She tells us how those cliches hurt when growing as a kid, about the feeling of injustice. I also explains how her father said that he didn’t have any possessions to leave to his kids, but that he would give them wings so that they could fly out of Tepito, and fly back. The wings are pinned on the wall: they are university diplomas. P and I start to talk of life experiences, all those stories that they’ve been sharing for those two weeks. P tells how she moved from Sinaloa, in Northern Mexico, to the DF, alone, when she was 21, to attend a theater school. After a month, she fell on her head and had to undergo surgery, luckily her cousin was a neurologist, so she could be admitted in the hospital quickly and get operated well, without getting her head shaved. She tells how she met the other women from the same unit in the hospital afterwards, who didn’t have the same luck, and were waiting for their fate with all or part of their head shaved. I tells how her sister used to dismiss her because she was going to parties like a “Tepiteña” (a girl from Tepito), instead of “behaving properly”. She tells how she suffered from the lack of trust from her mother, who didn’t believe it was possible to go out without consuming drugs, or ending up pregnant at the end of the evening. How she had to work to help her father with his shoe workshop, but liked the electric ambiance in the market with people shouting around. How one of her ex boyfriends ended up in jail due to drinking to much after she left him, and how she felt when going to visit him. We stay silent, and are progressively absorbed in their intertwined monologues, crying or laughing as they do. After a cup of tea, we leave I’s house.

The next stop is the workshop of I’s father. He invites us in, and explains us the various steps of shoe making: the assembling of the pieces of fabric forming the top of the shoe, how that is then attached to the base and glued to the sole. He explains patiently, passing around the different pieces he’s talking about, and showing us the final result. After that, P leads us to the street again.

We walk a few blocks, and come across a group of drivers on motorcycles, we each seat on the back of one. They drive us around the district and through the market, where people are busy tearing down their stands. We then meet one of the four other safari groups (there are four groups, seeing two houses each). We get to know each other, and finally leave P to join N, who will lead us for the rest of the safari. N introduces us to L, who’s been hosting him for the past two weeks. L is well known in the district for being a tough woman, but also for her “albur” skills, an albur being a sentence with two meanings, a form of ironical understatement. L is actually so famous for her albur skills that she holds a workshop to teach people how to use this form of talking.

L leads us to a backyard where candles light the stairs, and then to a small room where a man dressed in white is waiting for us. We form a circle around N, who’s standing next to the man in white, as the man starts to sing in an unknown language. Two candles stand on the floor around a small skull. The man continues singing while shaking branches around, and spits water on the skull. He then burns something and blows the smoke on the skull and on N, who’s then asked to stamp the branches. N “washes” himself in the smoke, and the man in white throws pieces of a coconut on the floor. He finally gathers everything in a plastic bag, which he handles to N. My best guess about that episode is that the man in white was a shaman or a healer, and did something for N. We exit by a back door leading inside the church, which we cross before leaving L.

We walk around with N, who shows us the monument to the “Siete cabronas” (L is one of them). La “cabrona” is a woman who endures the hardships of her life, who falls but stands up again, ready to carry on. The monument is actually a block of concrete, with only a few inscriptions on it. No statue or anything that would distinguish it from a plain concrete block. N explains us that the form serves the purpose: the Mexican culture still suffers a lot from machismo, and while most families are actually driven by women, who take care of husband of kids, cook and keep the house in order, the figure of the woman stays most of the time in the background. So the monument is actually holding a statue representing the woman in the family. It’s just that the statue is invisible.

N then leads us to L’s flat. We enter and seat in the living room around a table where what looks like a dead body lays under a white sheet. N goes off the living room, and come backs shaking a bundle of plants and singing (or rather grunting) weird incantations, dancing around the table. After a few minutes, the body under the sheet starts to laugh, and L comes out. The relation between N and L is a mix of complicity, playfulness and flirting, although it’s clear that the flirting is here only a game. As with I and P, we get the occasion to enter in N and P’s intimacy. L still feels guilty of having accepted to “disconnect” her mother, after a series of infarcts left her in a vegetative state. N’s still bears the fear that came from his father beating him and his mother as a kid. N remembers life in the countryside with his ten brothers, having to wake up early to clean and feed the cows before going to school, the humiliation of having to walk sometimes barefoot for lack of shoes at home, or the other kids despising him publicly because of his “smelling like cow sheet”. Theater was for N the occasion to play other characters, but in real life he still has a hard time talking with someone whom he considers as “superior” without lowering his eyes or stuttering. L remembers when she was diagnosed cancer, and fell into alcoholism in the hope to finish her life quickly. She remembers trying to burry herself in the ground, and how she ended up spending seven months in a specialized institute, before finally being able to go out and join the weekly meetings with the anonymous alcoholics. She looks at her AA member card: “what am I supposed to do with that?”. L offers us a bowl of frijoles and a tortilla, along with a glass of tequila.

After leaving L’s house, we’re invited to walk in a column of two persons, and to tell our peer “what we are like under our mask”: to undergo, in a reduced scale, the same process as what the actors have been doing when spending two weeks at their host’s place. We walk all the way to a small stadium, where all the four groups are brought together. There, the motos that have been driving us earlier offer us a show, on the music of the Blue Danube.

Once the valse is over, we head to a large hall where we receive delicious tacos and agua jamaica, and have the occasion to talk more with the people of our group, as well as with the actors and the hosts. P explains to a few of us how J (the man with the Christmas house) is unpredictable, and sometimes even refuses to open his house. Each “safari” is a unique experience, there’s no scenario here.

Finally, we are lead back to the metro station, escorted by the eternal motos: that’s the end of the safari.

Small carnaval near the basilica

Fri Feb 27, 2015 13:50 GMT

Today is just a small fiesta, on big days several tens of thousands of people come to greet the virgencita.

Visiting the Virgen de Guadalupe

Fri Feb 27, 2015 13:38 GMT

Mexico center seen from the Latino tower

Thu Feb 26, 2015 17:30 GMT

El Zocalo

Thu Feb 26, 2015 16:38 GMT

Museo de Bellas Artes

Thu Feb 26, 2015 16:09 GMT

The museum is decorated inside with paintings from Diego Riveira

Back in Mexico city

Wed Feb 25, 2015 21:27 GMT


Wed Feb 25, 2015 16:48 GMT

Puebla is a very nice city, with its center being on the UNESCO list. The architecture is a mix of colonial and baroque styles, with touches of jugendstil in a few places.

Memorial for John Lennon

Wed Feb 25, 2015 13:59 GMT

How many cities in the world have memorial plaques for John Lennon?

Get your Jesus

Wed Feb 25, 2015 13:49 GMT

There’s nothing like a Jesus to put in your living room

La Pasita

Wed Feb 25, 2015 12:16 GMT

An old home made liquor shop in Puebla, with an interesting interior decoration…

Wedding dresses in Mexico

Tue Feb 24, 2015 20:00 GMT

The bigger, the better


Tue Feb 24, 2015 17:40 GMT

Cholula is a small city near Puebla. The church on top of the hill offers a nice view on the highest volcano in Mexico, and the city also counts with a “container city”, a block of houses made with shipping containers.

Monte Alban

Mon Feb 23, 2015 13:29 GMT


Sun Feb 22, 2015 18:28 GMT

Oaxaca has a very nice historical center, with various churches, markets and cafes. It’s nested in a valley, with the suburbs creeping on the hills around.

Jazz in Oaxaca

Sat Feb 21, 2015 23:23 GMT

From Puerto Escondido to Oaxaca

Sat Feb 21, 2015 16:34 GMT

The landscapes are hilly and semi desertic, with only cactuses not drying in the higher parts.

Playa Zicatela

Fri Feb 20, 2015 11:59 GMT

San Cristobal De Las Casas

Wed Feb 18, 2015 17:03 GMT

San Cristobal has many small streets, colorful houses with roofs made of old tiles, and is surrounded all over by small mountains. A very nice small city with lots of interesting places.

Corrida de toros in San Juan Chamula

Tue Feb 17, 2015 20:32 GMT

Today was the last day of the carnival in Chamula. The main square is filled with people waiting for the toros, the bulls. Before the bulls come, groups of costumed people parade around, blowing horns or playing music. They will be useful later as they indicate which way the bulls are coming.

While the costumed people parading wear very colorful clothes, the men in charge of pulling the bulls wear the traditional outfit: a sort of white poncho looking like a very hairy cow. Each bull is attached by its head, and pulled by two groups of men, one in front and one behind, so that the animal stays (roughly) under control. The bull will be pulled from outside the center to the main square, where it will be pulled around so that brave (or stupid) enough people can try to jump in its back and hold there.

Because most bulls appreciate only mildly the mix of being pulled, blowing horns and masses of people, they’re fairly nervous and pull quite hard on their rope. All people watching are standing on the sides of the street, where they run as appropriate to avoid being skewed.

There were 18 bulls in total, and some of them did end up being mounted. At least one person got hit by a bull, but as far as I could see he could still roughly stand while being hauled away by his friends.

No pictures for this post, since the inhabitants of Chamula think that pictures steal their luck and soul…

Casa Kasa

Mon Feb 16, 2015 17:54 GMT

A lovely hostel in San Cristobal De Las Casas operated by Takeshima, a Japanese that has traveled for 11 years before setting here. I’m the only non-japanese here, the ambience is really nice: most things are shared, and evenings are spent around a fire in the patio.


Mon Feb 16, 2015 16:52 GMT

San Juan Chamula

Mon Feb 16, 2015 14:11 GMT

It’s more or less forbidden to take of pictures in the whole village, so those are stolen shots.

Chamula is having its carnival until tomorrow, so I guess I’ll come back to see the corrida.


Sun Feb 15, 2015 13:27 GMT

I camped near the ruins and went there this morning. Palenque has more buildings that one can visit, compared to other reserves.


Sat Feb 14, 2015 20:06 GMT

Another archeological site almost surrounded by the river separating Mexico from Guatemala.

Carrying bags the old way

Sat Feb 14, 2015 10:56 GMT

Each bag probably weights around 100kg

Crossing to Mexico

Sat Feb 14, 2015 10:56 GMT

Exit fee when exiting Guatemala

Sat Feb 14, 2015 10:04 GMT

I was expecting to pay a Q20 fee when exiting the country, although I could find no official page mentioning this tax, this was what most people had mentioned.

The border official said “it’s Q40 per person”, I asked “ what, I thought it was only 20”. Just asking made him let me and the guy after me go without paying any fee at all. Conclusion: there is no exit fee when leaving Guatemala.

Crossing Guatemala towards Mexico

Sat Feb 14, 2015 08:47 GMT


Fri Feb 13, 2015 13:55 GMT

Tikal is a (very) large archeological zone North of Flores. They used to be regularly at war with Calakmul, which I mentioned earlier.

As for Calakmul, the site is in the middle of the forest and very large, so it’s also a good place to spot monkeys, birds and other animals.

Monkeys have a particular sense of humor

Fri Feb 13, 2015 06:38 GMT

Views from Flores

Thu Feb 12, 2015 16:39 GMT

Flores is touristic but keeps a very nice ambiance, with its colorful houses and its small streets, surrounded by the lake.

I rented a scooter today to drive around the lake, although the road turned out to be more a track than a road at times. The ride took around 5h, sunburned arms and crushed bottom.

Flying over to Flores

Wed Feb 11, 2015 17:49 GMT

Waiting for my plane in Belize airport

Wed Feb 11, 2015 14:45 GMT

Tropic Air operates flights on small Cessna planes between Belize City and Flores in Guatemala.

Stuck until tomorrow in Belize

Tue Feb 10, 2015 12:07 GMT

Today’s flight was unfortunately full, I’ll fly tomorrow!

Crossing Belize in a recycled american schoolbus

Mon Feb 9, 2015 16:54 GMT

Back online

Mon Feb 9, 2015 12:08 GMT

Camping and batteries don’t go well together… After Chichen Itza I took a bus to Merida, where I walked a bit in the center (quite nice churches and old houses). I then headed to Campeche, and finally to Xpujil. That was quite a lot of bus riding, and I ended up at the Xpujil bus terminal around 3am. Like in lots of places in Mexico, life never stops there, and one could still consult the ticket office and eat a tamal while waiting for the next bus to the entrance of the Calakmul reserve, which was my final destination. At 6am I was finally there, and chatted with the guy guarding the entrance, waiting for a car to pass that could take me to the actual archeological zone of Calakmul, 60km away. He nicely offered to keep my large backpack, which I could take back in the evening to go camping.

The archeological site of Calakmul is really nice, hidden in the middle of the jungle. Unlike in Chichen Itza, one is allowed to climb on top of the pyramids, and the highest one is higher than the trees, offering a 360° panorama on the forest.

The camping was also quite nice, it’s “ecological”, which means there is neither electricity nor running water, one showers himself using buckets of rain water. It also had an observation tower, giving a pretty nice view on the sunset.

This morning, I went to hike in the forest with Fernando, the owner of the camping, hoping to see some animals and to learn a bit more about the local flora. Right at the beginning, near a water hole, we managed to spot an Ocelot which climbed in a tree when hearing us but stayed quite visible. In the tree next to it was a kind of raccoon, which local name I forgot. A bit further, a tejon (sort of mix between a monkey and a fox) was sleeping in a tree. We also saw some toucans from far away.

The local flora includes the tree used to produce the natural chewing gum (today almost disappeared), tapped in a similar way to maple syrup. Most “chicle” trees bear the lines of the cuts made to collect their sap. There are also some orchids, although we saw none with flowers (the monkeys apparently eat then during dry times).

I’m now writing this message from a collectivo (shared taxi) from Xpujil to Chetumal, where I’ll then head to Belize, trying to catch a flight over the forest to Flores in Guatemala. Availability of network and/or power sources might be limited, therefore updates on this blog might be sporadic as well.

Chichen Itza

Sat Feb 7, 2015 11:17 GMT

A huge Mayan archeological zone near Piste.

Setting up the tent in Piste

Fri Feb 6, 2015 23:57 GMT

Iguanas crawling around

Fri Feb 6, 2015 13:24 GMT

Tulum archeological zone

Fri Feb 6, 2015 13:17 GMT

Old and new buildings in Cancun

Thu Feb 5, 2015 16:18 GMT

Small archeological zone in the center of the hotel zone

Stormy weather in Playa Del Carmen

Wed Feb 4, 2015 15:29 GMT

Playa Del Carmen is like a small Cancun: pedestrian street lined with a mix of tourist shops and international brands, prices in US dollars and mostly English speaking sunburned crowd.

Squid in supermarket

Tue Feb 3, 2015 17:59 GMT

I just liked the texture :-)

Main library of the UNAM campus

Mon Feb 2, 2015 22:08 GMT

The UNAM is the biggest university of Mexico (if not the biggest in Latin America). They have a large campus south of the city, where all the faculties are.

Trajineras in Xochimilco

Mon Feb 2, 2015 22:06 GMT

The trajineras are flat boats that cruise on the canals of Xochimilco. They usually come with a band playing, and are a popular attraction on sunny days.

Trying pulque in Xochimilco

Mon Feb 2, 2015 22:01 GMT

Pulque is a drink made of fermented maguey sap. This one is pulque “curado”, that is, with some aroma inside (in that case oat). The drink itself is fairly thick and sweet, finishing the glass was quite a challenge…

Chicken feet on the market

Mon Feb 2, 2015 21:57 GMT

One can also buy them cooked on the street and eat them like snacks. It’s a bit like pork feet, but smaller.

Dia del Nino Pa in Xochimilco

Mon Feb 2, 2015 21:33 GMT

This fiesta happens once a year, when the “mayordomo” of the Nino Pa changes. The Nino is a small wooden puppet that is 400 years old, and that is taken care of by a different family every year. One has to apply to become “mayordomo” (in charge of the Nino), the waiting time is currently 38 years. Luckily, that right can be transfered across generations.

Once one becomes mayordomo, he has to take the Nino to visits every day of the year, take care that his clothes are clean, etc. The day of the ceremony, everyone can come and eat at the mayordomo’s house to see the Nino. This implies preparing food for a couple of hundreds people. Many mayordomos remodel their house to prepare a proper altar for the Nino too.

Such fiestas happen apparently quite often in Xochimilco, next week is the fiesta for the Virgen de los Dolores.

The animals at home

Sun Feb 1, 2015 16:12 GMT




Old house in the center

Sun Feb 1, 2015 15:30 GMT

Cine Opera

Sun Feb 1, 2015 15:21 GMT

Museo universitario del Chopo

Sun Feb 1, 2015 15:15 GMT

Back with my backpack

Sun Feb 1, 2015 13:55 GMT

After Air France said they’d deliver it yesterday and then didn’t, after they said it was in the office of Aeromexico while Aeromexico pretended the Air France crew had picked it up already, and after having to go back to the airport and insisting again with the Air France for them to check their office.

Congratulations Air France for your inefficiency, it clearly takes some skills to reach such a level.

People dancing salsa on the Plaza Ciudadela

Sat Jan 31, 2015 18:11 GMT

Biblioteca de Mexico Jose Vasconcelos

Sat Jan 31, 2015 18:03 GMT

Crowded streets on Saturday in Mexico City

Sat Jan 31, 2015 15:42 GMT

My first Mexican snack

Fri Jan 30, 2015 23:53 GMT

Chapulines, that is, dried crickets

with a small glass of mezcal

Just arrived

Fri Jan 30, 2015 20:46 GMT

Luggage got lost in the way, I’m traveling light :-P

I'm on holiday

Thu Jan 29, 2015 17:39 GMT


Pick one

Wed Jan 28, 2015 22:45 GMT